If we’re being honest, a country’s cuisine can be one of the most important factors of choosing a new place to live. If you don’t like the local food, daily life in a new country can be a bit of a struggle. On the other hand, if you love the local dishes, it will make the transition that little bit easier. (At the very least, it will be easy to find comfort food on the bad days.)
Vietnam has some of the most delicious food in the world. It’s full of flavour but not too spicy, incredibly cheap and surprisingly healthy. Eating and drinking are a huge part of the Vietnamese culture too, and street-side restaurants are usually full of people at every meal time. So, if you want to move somewhere that your stomach will love as much as you do, try Vietnam!
Here are five of our favourite Vietnamese drinks and dishes (which could become your favourites too!):
1. Bún Chả – Barbecued Meatballs Noodle Soup
If you aren’t already sold on this dish by the combination of meatballs and noodles, maybe you’ll be persuaded by the fact that it comes with the approval of former POTUS, Barack Obama! There isn’t a Trip Advisor or Yelp review to speak of, but he was seen eating this meal during his recent trip to Hanoi.
The dish itself is comprised of barbecued pork meatballs, a sweet fish sauce broth, fresh rice noodles, and optional garlic, chilli and salad. Bun Cha is a northern dish, so you’re more likely to find it in Hanoi than Saigon. But, wherever you are in the country, it’s usually easy to find by following the scent of barbecued pork.
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2. Bia Hơi – Vietnamese Fresh Beer
There are a couple of things you need to know about bia hơi. One, it’s not the best in the world – sorry, Vietnam. Two, it is one of the cheapest in the world at just 18p ($0.22) per pint. We’ll let you weight up the pros and cons yourself.
The beer itself is quite weak and fizzy, but it does grow on you. (Did we mention it’s 18p?) And, the atmosphere of the local spots that serve bia hơi are also part of the appeal. The modest watering holes are usually made up of nothing more than plastic stools and tables, a large barrel of beer, and cheerful drinks enjoying a post-work tipple.
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3. Phở – Traditional Beef or Chicken Noodle Soup
It wouldn’t be right for us to share some of the best Vietnamese food without including phở. It’s probably the most famous dish in the country and, with its popularity travelling around the world, you may have even tried it at home at your local Vietnamese restaurant.
However, there’s nothing like having a proper Vietnamese bowl of phở, which usually involves sniffing the surrounding jars and bowls of unknown condiments, deciding whether or not to put them in your food – but that’s half of the fun.
No one moves half way around the world for coffee, you say. Well, respectfully… you’re wrong. Vietnamese coffee is amongst the best in the world, though it often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
There are lots of places that serve tasty, good quality, local coffee. But, perhaps more impressive than the quality of the caffeine is the range of it. Coffee is served with everything from condensed milk to coconut milk and fresh yogurt to fluffy egg yolks. The one common theme is that most of these drinks are extremely sugary, but if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, a Vietnamese black coffee is just as nice.
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5. Chay – Vegetarian Dishes
It’s worth mentioning that there are a rising number of vegetarian restaurants and dishes appearing on the Vietnamese foodie scene. Not quite enough to recommend veggies to immediately book their next flight there, but enough for them not to stare at a menu in horror. If all else fails, ask for your dish to be ‘chay’ and you’ll get the vegetarian alternative.